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UN failing in its obligations towards Camp Liberty residents

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UN failing in its obligations towards Camp Liberty residents

  • Tuesday, November 20, 2012

After World War II, the United Nations was created in order to promote world peace, and divert war amongst rival nations through diplomatic negotiations. With the UN came the UNHCR, its refugee agency which made an effort to ensure that exiled people would not be mistreated. However, more than 60 years after the creation of the UN, it is clear that sub-humanitarian standards are still being exercised to many refugees around the world. 

In 2003, thousands of Iranian expatriates living in Iraq, politically active against the Iranian regime, were given ‘protected persons’ status by the United States government. This meant that the United States took on the responsibility of protecting these dissidents from any foreign attacker. 

Regardless of their obligations, the US failed to protect these exiles when they were attacked by the Iraqi government, at the behest of the mullah’s, in 2009 and 2011. The two aforementioned attacks resulted in 49 residents killed, and scores more injured. 

In February of this year, the residents of Ashraf relocation from their home of 26 years to Camp Liberty, after being promised an expedited resettlement to third countries. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the United Nations and the Iraqi government, and endorsed by the United States, in order to ensure the residents a humanitarian standard of living at Camp Liberty, a former U.S. military base near Baghdad International Airport. 

Unfortunately, the United Nations has failed to live up to its obligations just as the United States has in previous years. 

Upon arrival at Camp Liberty, the residents were met with living standards equivalent to a prison. The basic humanitarian needs that were promised to them by the MoU had, most certainly, not been fulfilled. Their access to clean water, electricity, and basic tools to improve living conditions was greatly restricted. The average resident of Camp Liberty lost 20 lbs due to the limitations placed upon them. Despite international outcry from those who had friends and family in Camp Liberty, as well as many former US officials, the UN continued to turn a blind eye to the promises they had made.  

The United Nations, which so boldly advocates peace and diplomacy, has continued to allow the suppression of the residents in Liberty. In an attempt to smooth the relocation of the residents and ensure their rights, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon appointed Ambassador Martin Kobler to oversee this crucial issue. However, as time went on, it became apparent that rather being an objective mediator between the residents of Liberty and the Iraqi government, that he had the best interests of the Iraqi and Iranian governments in mind. By belittling the outcries of residents, Ambassador Kobler has attempted to direct all attention away from the sub-humanitarian standard of living that has been forced upon the residents.

There have been multiple accounts in which Ambassador Kobler has been accused of conspiring with the regime in Iran. Earlier this year, Ambassador Kobler took a one week trip to Iran, in which he engaged in talks with the regime. Later, this same year, he encouraged a plan which would send the residents of Ashraf and Liberty to a hotel in Baghdad, which later was found out to be leased by the Iranian regime. 

Since Liberty is not connected to Baghdad’s water network or the city’s power grid, the residents have to use generators, which are worn-out, inefficient and break down regularly. They are paying $23,000 for fuel every day, since Iraq does not allow them to buy fuel in Iraq, forcing them instead to import from Kuwait.

In addition, the Iraqi government has not permitted the residents to transfer much of their property in Ashraf to Liberty and has obstructed attempts to sell what remains at Ashraf with the intention of pilfering hundreds of millions of dollars worth of vehicles, machinery and other assets at Ashraf.

As conditions in Camp Liberty worsen by day, residents of the camp and their family members can only await what seems to be a daunting fate. The United Nations must do more to ensure the safety and security of the residents. It must live up to its long unfulfilled obligations, and thus prevent a widespread massacre if 3,300 innocent men, women, and children.